Privacy advocates in India are speaking out against the growing prevalence of facial recognition technology following the debut of an extensive biometric boarding system at the country’s Bengaluru airport. The system eliminates the need for paper boarding passes and ID documents, allowing travelers to move through the airport using their face for identity verification.
Proponents argue that biometric technology is safer and more convenient than the alternatives. However, privacy advocates noted that India does not have robust data protection laws or a surveillance framework to prevent abuses of the technology, which makes the rapid adoption of intrusive facial recognition cameras particularly concerning.
“Entities that deploy facial recognition essentially have carte blanche to do whatever they want with your most intimate data,” said Vidushi Marda, a lawyer and an advisor for the Article 19 human rights group. “By enrolling, you’re providing a private entity with a biometric map of your face in the absence of accountability and transparency mechanisms, and no data protection.”
A similar facial recognition trial is underway at India’s Hyderabad airport. Privacy advocates were also worried about the use of facial recognition by law enforcement, with cities like Gurugram recently incorporating facial recognition technology into their surveillance networks.
This is not the first time that India has wrestled with the implications of biometric tech. In 2017, the country’s Supreme Court ruled that privacy is a fundamental human right, and later determined that the Aadhaar system could not be used as a requirement for services like bank accounts or mobile phones.
Despite those rulings, there is still a general lack of transparency and legislative oversight, raising fears about the nature of consent in a widespread biometric system.
July 25, 2019 – by Eric Weiss